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Overview of the Water Based Research Unit

The Water Based Research Unit is focused upon investigating the health benefits and improving the sporting performance of all aquatic recreational and sporting activities. 

This Research Unit was established by Professor Wayne Hing (Head of Physiotherapy) and Associate Professor Michael Climstein.


The mission of the Water Based Research unit is to build the well-being of our communities by developing practical strategies & solutions through pragmatic health and sport research in real-world settings.


To achieve excellence in aquatic based research that will improve the health and performance of individuals participating in aquatic recreational/sporting activities.

Future directions

The water based research unit is aiming to continue to produce high quality research in a variety of water based sports. The aim is to provide a location for the ongoing research, assessment and treatment of water based athletes along with determining the most effective ways of maximising performance. Ongoing collaboration with international universities and local businesses and community groups will continue to maximise industry, educational and community engagement.

Current projects

The Water Based Research unit has a large array of research equipment available to support various research projects:

  • Biomechanical analysis of SUP stroke
  • Assessment of Thoracic ROM with a smart phone application
  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) reliability/validity analysis
  • Establishing normative values for the Combined Elevation Test
  • The measurement of hip/shoulder strength for water based athletes
  • Case study of bone and muscle mass changes post surfing injuries
  • Examining the effect of hydration on recreational surfers
  • The specificity of ergometers as a training tool in water based sports
  • Evaluation of Surfer’s Ear (exostoses) in competitive and recreational surfers
  • Evaluation of Bone health in mature-aged surfers

The Water Based Research Unit is looking for potential higher degree research students (Master’s and PhD) interested in completing research in the area of water based sporting and/or recreational activities (surfing, stand up paddle boarding, surf life saving,swimming etc.). Students may choose  from available projects or propose research in an aquatic activity they prefer.

Please direct your inquires to the Director, Professor Wayne Hing

PhD Theses

Supervisors:  Professor Hing and A/Prof Mike Climstein

One of the newest sports growing in popularity is Stand up Paddle boarding (SUP). SUP’s increasing attractiveness is attributed to SUP’s deemed easy to learn and that it does not always require specific surf conditions for participation. The peak body for Stand Up Paddle Surfing Australia has identified Currumbin (Gold Coast) as the highest density and centre of SUP in Australia.

SUP websites have claimed that the benefits of SUP include improvements in strength, co-ordination, core stability and physical conditioning, however these claims remain fully unsubstantiated. Although the sport has been seen as a recreational activity clearly it has potential as an exercise training and rehabilitation tool.

Contact Ben Schram 

Supervisors:  Professor Hing and A/Prof Mike Climstein

The Gold Coast weather, geography and culture of water sports make it a truly unique aquatic recreational and sporting environment. With over 2.5 million surfers in Australia, the Gold Coast is home to a large percentage of both professional and recreational surfers (Surfing Australia, 2010). However despite these numbers there is a significant lack of research surrounding the identification of surfing injuries (both acute and chronic) and valid approaches to prevention.

Current projects

  • A national survey will give a global snapshot of current surf injuries, predominant location of injury, and the relationship between variables such as age, frequency of surfing, stance, and level of experience.
  • Based on the above findings a musculoskeletal screening tool will be designed to identify asymmetries within surfing populations compared to non-surfers.
  • A physiological screen will be performed on various groups (long-term recreational, elite) of surfers. VO2 max, max power output and general baseline measures will be performed.
  • Clinical Implications:   Research will aid in developing a valid and reliable screening tool to identify surfers who are at risk of potential injury and to be used as a guide for future treatment strategies.

Contact James Furness


Zac Pollard – Bone health in recreational mature-aged surfers: A preliminary investigation -  "Effects of chronic surfing on bone health in mature-aged males"

Higher Degree Research (HDR) students wanted

The Water Based Research Unit is looking for highly qualified Masters and PhD students to complete their degrees in the area of aquatic research. All research projects must fit within the Mission and Vision of the Water Based Research Unit.

Students interested in pursuing HDR study within the Water Based Research Unit are advised to contact a potential supervisor in their area of research with a proposed study. Students interested in applying for PhD study are expected (although not required) to have peer-reviewed publications at time of their application.

Sustainable surf tourism

This research stream explores sustainability in the context of surf tourism developing nations such as Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Fiji. The central aim of this research is to critically analyse the enablers and impediments to community-centred, sustainable approaches to surf tourism. The findings will result in a deeper understanding of how these often remote communities can utilise nature-based surf tourism resources for community building and poverty alleviation, and ultimately, decrease their reliance on less sustainable activities like mining, logging and fishing.

Earlier research has demonstrated that that the past mismanagement of surf tourism in developing nations has resulted in crowding, economic leakage, and sociocultural and environmental degradation for host communities. By analysing the contributing and inhibiting factors to host community involvement in the surf tourism equation, a deeper understanding of how remote communities can sustainably utilise locally available marine-based surf tourism resources can be developed.

    • O’Brien, D., & Ponting, J., (2013). Sustainable surf tourism: A community-centered approach in Papua New Guinea. Journal of Sport Management27, 158-172.
    • Ponting, J. & O’Brien, D. (Under First Review). Managing Nirvana: An analysis of Fiji’s struggle for sustainable surf tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
    • Surf tourism, sport development and community building: Exploring the nexus in a remote Papua New Guinean village.
    • Surf tourism as a lever for community healing after war: The case of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.
    • Ponting, J. & O’Brien, D. (2013). "SurfCredits": A formalised approach for professional surfing to “give back” to host communities. Paper accepted for presentation at the 19th Annual Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference. Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand, November 20-22, 2013
    • Abel, A. & O’Brien, D. (2013). Negotiating communities – sustainable cultural surf tourism. In, J. Ponting and G. Borne (Eds.), Sustainable stoke - Transitions to sustainability in the surfing world. Plymouth, UK: University of Plymouth Press (In Press).
    • Ponting, J. & O’Brien, D. (In Press). Liberalizing Nirvana: An analysis of the consequences of common pool resource deregulation for the sustainability of Fiji’s surf tourism industry. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

    Publications and presentations

    1. Simas, V., Hing, W., Pope, R., Climstein, M. Effects of water-based exercise on bone health of middle-aged and older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Medicine. (2017) 8: 39-60.
    2. Schram, B., Hing, W. A., & Climstein, M. The long-term effects of Stand-up Paddle Boarding: A case study. International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine, (2017) 3(4).
    3. Schram, B., & Furness, J. Exploring the utilisation of Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Australia. Sports, (2017) 5(3).
    4. Furness, J., Olarunnife, O., Schram, B., Climstein, M., & Hing, W. A. Epidemiology of injuries in stand-up paddle boarding. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, (2017) 5(6). Doi: 10.1177/2325967117710759
    5. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M. Profiling the sport of stand-up paddle boarding. Journal of Sports Science. (2016); 34(10):937-944.
    6. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M. Laboratory-and field-based assessment of maximal aerobic power of elite stand-up paddle-board athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. (2016); 11(1):28-32.
    7. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M. The physiological, musculoskeletal and psychological effects of stand up paddle boarding. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation. (2016); 8(1):32.
    8. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M, Furness J. A performance analysis of a Stand Up Paddle Board marathon race. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (2016).
    9. Furness J, Hing W, Sheppard JM, Newcomer S, Schram B, Climstein M. The Physiological Profile of Male Competitive and Recreational Surfers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (2016).
    10. Climstein M, Furness J, Hing W, Walsh J. Lifetime prevalence of non‐melanoma and melanoma skin cancer in Australian recreational and competitive surfers. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine. (2016); 32(4):207-213
    11. Furness J, Climstein M, Sheppard JM, Abbott A, Hing W. Clinical methods to quantify trunk mobility in an elite male surfing population. Physical Therapy in Sport. (2016); 19:28-35.
    12. Simas V, Furness J, Hing W, Pope R, Walsh J, Climstein M. Ear discomfort in a competitive surfer. Aust Fam Physician. (2016); 45(9):644-646.
    13. Climstein M, Pollard Z, Furness J, Walsh J, McLellan C, Meerkin J. Effects of long-term surfing on bone health in mature-aged males.  International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education. (2015); 9(1): 24-37.
    14. Furness, J., Johnstone, S., Hing, W., Abbott, A., Climstein, M. Assessment of shoulder active range of motion in prone versus supine: a reliability and concurrent validity study. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice: An international journal of physical therapy. (2015) 31(7), 489-495.
    15. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M. The physiological, musculoskeletal and psychological effects of stand up paddle boarding. Physiotherapy. (2015); 101, Supplement 1(0): e1351-e1352.
    16. Furness J, Hing W, Walsh J, et al. Acute Injuries in Recreational and Competitive Surfers. Incidence, Severity, Location, Type, and Mechanism. American Journal of Sports Medicine. (2015): 1-9.
    17. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M, Walsh J. Profiling Elite Stand Up Paddle Boarders. Journal of Fitness Research. (2014); 3(1):40-51. 
    18. Furness J, Hing W, Abbott A, Walsh J, Climstein M, Sheppard JM. Retrospective analysis of chronic injuries in recreational and competitive surfers: Injury location, type, and mechanism. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education. (2014); 8(3):277-287.

    APA New Moves Conference Melbourne – 2013

    1. Furness, J., Hing, W., Walsh, J., Sheppard, JK.M., & Climstein, M. Risk factors for acute and chronic injury in recreational and competitive surfers.
    2. Furness J, Hing W, Walsh, J, Sheppard, J.M., & Climstein, M. (2013). Increased acute lower limb injuries are associated with completing aerial manoeuvres in surfing.

    APA Conference Australia Gold Coast – 2015

    1. Furness J, Hing W, Pope, R., & Climstein, M. (2015).  Trunk mobility in the sagittal planes: clinical methods to quantify movement in an elite surfing population. Awarded Best Presentation ePoster
    2. Furness J, Hing W, Pope, R., & Climstein, M. (2015).  Differences in joint ranges of motion in competitive and recreational surfers.

    World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress Singapore – 2015

    1. Schram, B., Hing, W., Climstein, M. The Physiological, Musculoskeletal and Psychological Effects of Stand Up Paddle Boarding.

    2nd Science of Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity in the Tropics conference Townsville - 2016

    1. Furness, J., Climstein, M., Hing, W., & Walsh, J. Lifetime prevalence of non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancer in Australia surfers.

    World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress South Africa - 2017

    1. Furness, J., Climstein, M., Hing, W., Schram., B. Understanding Injury Epidemiology in Water Based Sports: Surfing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
    2. Schram, B., Hing, W., Climstein, M., Furness, J. The Chronic Effects of Stand Up Paddle Boarding: A Case Study. 

    Contact the team

    Dr James Furness: [email protected]

    Is interested in health and performance specific to surfing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding and has experience in:

    • Injury epidemiology
    • Musculoskeletal and Physiological Profiling
    • Biomechanics
    • Rehabilitation
    • Hydration

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    Dr Ben Schram: [email protected]

    Is interested in health and performance related investigation and has experience in:

    • Surfing
    • Stand Up Paddle Boarding
    • Strength and Conditioning
    • Fitness Testing
    • Electromyography
    • Postural Sway
    • Dynamic Balance
    • Exercise Interventions
    • GPS utilization
    • Hydration

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    Dr Vini Simas (MD): [email protected]

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    A/Professor Mike Climstein:  [email protected]
    Is interested in health and performance related investigations and will supervise HDR students in the following aquatic activities:

    • Surfing
    • Stand up paddle boarding
    • Kayaking
    • Swimming
    • Scuba diving
    • Surf life saving
    • Water therapy/aqua aerobics
    • Water polo

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